With his team leading 20-13 in the second overtime Friday night, freshman defensive back Trenton Stafford dropped a sure interception on second down that would have clinched the victory over Cloquet. It didn't take long for Stafford to earn a little redemption.
Two plays later he batted away a fourth-down pass in the end zone as the Orioles held on for the seven-point win in their season opener and first game ever on their .
“Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn't even thought of that,” coach Vince Varpness said when reminded his team was undefeated on its new-look home turf.
They got there by overcoming a rough first quarter, and thanks in large part to sophomore Davon Malone, the unofficial chairman of the team's backfield by committee.
“We've got kind of a running back by committee,” Varpness said. “Malone is a young guy and Cole (Hoyt) is one of our defensive backs. (Malone) hasn't had a lot of reps back there, and Kashif (Hayes), this is his first time playing football in a long time.”
Those three running backs combined for 218 rushing yards in regulation and 11 more yards in overtime, and accounted for all three Orioles touchdowns. Malone led the way with 131 yards on 11 carries, including a pair of touchdowns. Hoyt added the other touchdown.
But it was all Cloquet in the first quarter. The Lumberjacks marched 80 yards in 16 plays on their opening drive, chewing up more than nine minutes of the first quarter in the process. Quarterback Sean Kedrowski capped the drive with a 3-yard scoring run.
The Orioles went three-and-out on their first possession, and had the ball for just 1 minute, 10 seconds in the first quarter.
In spite of their significant advantage in first-half time of possession, the Lumberjacks led just 7-0 at the break. And St. Louis Park wasted little time evening the score in the second half.
Hoyt capped a five-play, 49-yard drive with a 7-yard scoring run, after giving his team great field position with a big return on the kickoff to open the second half.
Cloquet moved back in front on a 4-yard scoring pass with 10:49 left in regulation, but St. Louis Park answered just three plays later on a 64-yard touchdown run by Hayes. The PAT that would have given the Orioles the lead sailed wide right, however, and the teams stayed deadlocked at 13-all.
St. Louis Park threatened again midway through the fourth quarter, but stalled on the Lumberjacks 15, turning the ball over on downs with just over six minutes left. Neither team mounted much offense the rest of the fourth quarter, and the game headed to OT.
In the first extra session, Cloquet's turn on offense ended prematurely when Marshall Cullen picked off a Kedrowski pass on third down. But the Orioles also came up empty on their possession, which ended with a 30-yard field goal try that fell short.
St. Louis Park went first in the second extra session, and Hayes found the end zone for the second time on the night on a 10-yard run around left end on first down, giving his team its first lead of the night.
The Orioles (1-0) will open North Suburban Conference play next Friday against Irondale.